Dying and Yet We Live On

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The garden on the grounds of the Franklin D. Roosevelt House goes on and on and is so pretty, a picture cannot begin to do it justice. I love gardens and have one of my own, where I love to spend time nurturing and coaxing colorful blooms.

But there comes a season that no matter what I do, my plants not only refuse to bloom, but they insist on dying. If I didn’t know better, I would be disheartened by this. After all the time and resources I’ve invested in my flowers, just to have them wither away to nothing seems like such a waste. I might even be tempted to give up. But I happen to have gardened long enough to know a little something about the cycle, and that the apparent death of this year’s flowers is actually the beginning of the abundance of next year’s.

“…Dying, and yet we live on…” 2 Corinthians 6:9.

This is an amazing truth – it is through death that everlasting life came. It is through the crucifixion and the tomb of Christ that a mansion now awaits me in Heaven. When death seemed darker than ever before, Christ’s resurrection and victory over it brought eternal light to every soul who would call upon Him. And it is through dying to myself that I truly begin to live.

So when I see my flowers die at the end of the season, I know that an abundant harvest awaits just a few months down the road. It’s a reminder to me that Christ always brings life from death.

Don’t Try to Impress

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People are funny. Look at this grand estate. This is the Vanderbilt National Historic Site, a beautiful mansion along the banks of the Hudson River in Hyde Park, New York. It was the home of one of the famed Vanderbilt’s- namely Frederick, one of the older siblings of George Vanderbilt, who made his way out of the Northeast to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and built the phenomenal Biltmore House.

We learned on our tour of this home that owners Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt struggled to fit into “Gilded Age” high society, because their money was not “old” enough.

The mindset of the Gilded Age is fascinating, as people tried desperately to impress each other with their fortunes, mansions, and family lines. Unfortunately, I don’t think we are much different today.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3.

I’ll be honest. I’m glad I don’t fit into the ranks of society’s finest. It’s way too much trouble to impress people, and even if you manage to, it only lasts for a moment. Living to please God is so much more rewarding.

I love how Scripture actually turns this philosophy of living to impress on its head. Not only does it implore us not to seek to impress people; it instructs us to think of others as better than ourselves! To be impressed by them. Not in a “worldly” kind of way, but in a way in which their needs are impressed upon our hearts and minds, so that we might aid and encourage them.

Now, that’s a radical way to live, and it doesn’t come naturally. It comes only from being yielded to God and sensitive to His leading. By having the mind of Christ, we can put ourselves and our own needs aside for the sake of others. As we learn this new mindset, however, we will discover that it will bring so much more joy to our lives.

Spread Your Protection

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This beautiful setting along the Hudson River is on the lovely grounds of Boscobel. Here, the view of the Appalachian Mountains, Hudson River, and Constitution Marsh is nature at its best. This marsh area is a protective habitat for the many birds and fish that frequent its boundaries.

In what ways can an organization protect species? They can conduct education programs, study breeding songbirds, manage invasive species that might harm the lives of fish and birds, and they can initiate wetlands restoration efforts. Life is fragile, valuable, and important, and often there are many dangers that threaten it. Therefore, protection is needed to preserve it.

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.” Psalm 5:11.

The fish of the river and the birds of the sky are not the only ones who need protection. I need it too. Many dangers surround my life. Some I am aware of; some, I am not. Disease, accidents, cruel treatment, my own “flesh,” temptation from the enemy, sin: these and more are common to our “habitat” – this world.

There are times when these threats seem overwhelming. It is only by the protection of my God that I am able to traverse this journey called “life.” He does this for me, and He does this for you. God is intricately involved in the lives of His children by preserving us, keeping us by His power, and being a wall of fire around us.

So how must I respond to this great provision from God? According to David, I should be filled with joy! I rejoice inwardly, by having an attitude of thankfulness and joy. And I rejoice outwardly, by testifying to others of His graciousness.

Is that how I live? Do I find myself tending to rejoice or tending to complain? Lord, help me live in gratefulness to You for Your protection.

God Will Continue His Work

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The Portland Head Light is probably the prettiest lighthouse I’ve ever seen. Not only is it beautiful, but it is historic, being almost as old as the country itself. But it almost never saw completion.

Construction began in 1787 at the request of George Washington and was completed in 1791. However, it appeared in 1789, as the federal government was being formed, that there would not be enough money to complete the lighthouse. George Washington, along with Congress, realized the importance of this structure and allocated a fund to complete the lighthouse.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6.

Some things are too valuable and important to leave incomplete. And believe it or not, that includes us and the work of grace God is doing in our lives. What is this wonderful work He is doing? He is teaching us to be submissive to Him. He is softening our hard hearts. He is causing us to become more like Christ. He is preparing us for good works that will bring glory to Him and good to others. All of this work is done inside of us, and it’s a process. It takes time, and sometimes it hurts.

Think about all that God has used in your life to refine you – the challenges, the setbacks, the losses, the disappointments. This is not in vain. The work God is doing in our lives is very valuable and produces amazing results. We simply must trust Him and yield to Him as He does what He sees necessary. Then, we will see the lasting results of a fruitful life.

When I see something that has lasted a long time still doing what it was built to do, like the Portland Head Light, I am reminded of how God works. Amid the challenges and setbacks, a beautiful and useful life is being made that will outlast every difficulty. Thank You, Lord, for never giving up on me!

The Revelation of Your Words Brings Light

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The Walkway Over the Hudson is an incredible pedestrian bridge that spans this beautiful and historic river, allowing guests to actually walk from one riverbank to the other.
The early October evening we visited was pleasantly warm and comfortable. It had been a somewhat cloudy afternoon, but as we came to the end of our walk, the sun began to peek through the clouds as it sunk lower in the sky. This sight of the dimly lit walkway going towards the light of the sun reminded me of the way my life seems sometimes, and it looked like a word picture of how God’s Word gives light to our daily journey.
“The revelation of Your words brings light and gives understanding to the inexperienced.” Psalm 119:130.
We often find ourselves walking in uncertainty. The circumstances of our lives cause us to question which way we should go. But when God reveals His truth to us through His Word, our pathway becomes more clear and the way we should go becomes evident.
There are times in this life that I feel so inexperienced; in fact, the older I become, the more I am at a loss as to why things happen and how I should respond. But God’s Word brings wisdom and guidance and gives me answers where they are needed and confidence where answers are unnecessary.
It may often feel like we are fumbling around in the darkness, looking for the next step to take, but the follower of Christ has an unfailing resource upon which to depend – the Word of God. As we read, study, and meditate on it, we will find our pathway light up, one step at a time.

Mightier than the Breakers of the Sea

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The day we visited Schoodic Point, in Maine’s Acadia National Park, we were treated to an amazing show of the power of God. The waves pounded the rocks, erupting in fountains of water up to fifty feet tall. The sea would swirl for a few minutes and then, boom! Without warning, it was as if a geyser was erupting, spewing water high into the air. Several of these eruptions would occur, one right after the other, and then the ocean would return to its swirling motion.

Being from the south, where the waves roll onto the sand, we had never seen the might of the ocean in this way, as the surges crashed against the rocks.

“Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea– the LORD on high is mighty.” Psalm 93:4.

Here, the writer is telling of the might of God. The ocean is an intimidating, and often destructive, force. That is one reason we are so in awe of it. It can neither be contained nor controlled by man. Yet, the One who created it and controls it is also mightier than it. He is over it, and it does His bidding. He can calm it, separate it and even walk on it.

Often, the writers of Scripture used the ocean to represent in their writings the nations and kings of the world. Our God also reigns over every nation and every king. He uses them, even when they are unaware of what He is doing.

The sea is a reminder to us of the power and glory of God. He reigns over it and all of nature. He rules over every nation and every person. In addition, He is sovereign over our circumstances and allows only what is for our eventual good and His glory.

The God who created this magnificent sea can surely be trusted with our lives, families, and situations.

The Lord Lights Up My Darkness

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As the sun sets over the Tennessee mountains, the lingering colors leave their beautiful pink imprint in the sky, as well as on the hills. As we took a scenic drive through the Tennessee mountains, we just had to stop and take this all in.

Sunsets are gorgeous, sometimes the most beautiful part of the day, but sometimes the coming darkness leaves me feeling a little somber. The day is over, and I’ll never get it back. Did I do everything I was supposed to do today – everything God asked of me? Did I trust Him? Was my time wasted on this day on my own agenda?

Sometimes, just as the darkness settles over the earth the darkness can settle over one’s soul. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“You light a lamp for me. The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness. Psalm 18:28.

If you know God, you never truly walk in the dark. Even when it seems the path is unknown and uncertain, the light of God’s presence shines on it for those who walk with Him.

As the Psalmist, David, wrote these words, it is likely his thoughts were on the conflicts of his life – the wars with his enemies, in which he faced many dangers. Yet, his confidence in the Lord saw him through many dark nights and many dark seasons. David’s penned words are a testimony to us of God’s faithfulness to bring light to the darkest of nights, the most difficult of circumstances, and the most uncertain of paths.

The Lord is trustworthy, and the stories of many through the ages bear witness to this truth, including mine and hopefully yours. Don’t go through the darkness alone. Allow the Lord to shine upon your life, and you will never regret it.

True Security

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This sight in Badlands National Park made my mama heart melt! One of the most difficult tasks of moms is to trust God with our grown children, and I’m ashamed to admit it.

It’s not that we can’t let go. I mean, really, what choice do we have? They grow up and go, and we can’t do anything about it. Not that we would. We want them to have a happy life, with a great marriage, the joy of children, their own home, a job they were created to do. That’s why we did what we did as moms.

What I mean is trusting God with them. When they were babies, we felt we had some control. We put boundaries of safety around them. They slept in a crib and played in a playpen. They rode strapped in a car seat and belted in a stroller. They ate in the confines of a high chair. As they got older, the boundaries got wider, but they were still there. They played in a fenced yard and rode in a booster seat, and we knew their friends’ parents. As they reached the teen years, the boundaries became less physical, but they were still there. We knew their friends, where they were going, and they had a curfew. They came home every night, and we could tell if they were ok or not.

And then, too soon, they were grown – and gone. It can be a mean world with mean people. There’s so much temptation and evil, and it just gets worse. Even if they’re trying to live life honoring God, sometimes really bad things happen. We can’t be there with them all the time to check and make sure they’re really ok.

And then we remember – there’s still a boundary of safety we can surround them with.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b.

The boundary of prayer is more secure than any rails or fence or house rules. When we pray God’s Word for our children, the power of God surrounds them, and there’s no security greater than that. He will work in ways that confound us and astound us. Many times, we won’t even understand. But we can be sure, that within the safe boundary of prayer, our children are more secure than anywhere else. #bighorn #yes

What’s In a Name?

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The Carolinas’ favorite destination is none other than Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s a beautiful place and is the second fastest growing metropolitan area in the entire country because of its climate and expansive beaches.

How did this place, which was unknown and originally called “New Town” come to be named “Myrtle Beach,” and well-known? Around the turn of the 20th century a man named Franklin Burroughs began to see the potential here for a tourism destination that would rival both the Florida and Northeast beaches. One of the first things needed was a new name for the area. A contest was held to choose one, and Burroughs’ wife suggested naming area after the southern wax myrtle, which grew abundantly here. The name took, and for generations, “Myrtle Beach” has been synonymous with fun and relaxation.

What’s in a name?

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Genesis 32:28.

Today, many people give their children certain names because they may like the way they sound, but names carried a lot of weight in Bible times. They were given to solidify family ties or to communicate a message. Sometimes God even changed a person’s name if He had a new calling or direction for that person.

Here in Scripture, God gives Jacob a new name. A change had happened in Jacob’s life, giving him a new character. No longer was he a schemer, always looking out for himself. Through the circumstances God had allowed in his life, Jacob had been humbled and had become useful to God. This new name, Israel, held great significance and importance, and it also implied hope. Hope for the future and the rest of Jacob’s days.

God has used Israel mightily over the generations, but it all started with one man who was radically changed by God. Are you willing to be so changed by God that you don’t look like who you were? If so, there’s no limit to what He can do through you. Trust Him, no matter what, and watch what He can do.

The Heart Reflects

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The tidewater reflecting the coastal mountains and sky on Indian Beach was so beautiful the day we visited in the summer of 2015. The characteristics of the trees on the hillside and the clouds in the air were mirrored there in the surf. Water often functions as a looking glass, emulating what is above it.

“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” Proverbs 27:19.

In the same way, my heart reflects who I really am. In other words, my external behavior is not an accurate gauge of my character. I can act one way on the outside, and feel entirely different on the inside. But, the thoughts of my heart reveal the truth. Only my conscience and God know the real truth about me. And that is a humbling thought!

I may be able to fake it with other people, but I can never fake it with God and myself. Hopefully that’s enough to motivate me to act in a way in which I can live with myself and live in the light of God’s smile.

That surely doesn’t mean I never sin or make mistakes. But it does mean that I try to live in a way that brings God pleasure, and when I don’t, I ask His forgiveness as soon as possible. If I’ve wronged another person, I must ask their forgiveness also. By living in a way that keeps this at the forefront of my mind, I am able to live victoriously and abundantly through the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Just as this tidewater accurately portrays what is above it, I want my heart to accurately reflect who I am in Christ- with His attributes and characteristics shining forth, bringing glory to God and encouragement to others. I can’t do this on my own, but by yielding to Him every single day, hopefully I become more like Him moment by moment.